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As a direct access immigration barrister it is rare that the Home Office do acts of a generous or humane nature. However this week the Home Office this week published a new policy setting out the terms of a 12 month immigration “amnesty” for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. In short, the Government is offering a grant (or extension) of 12 months leave to enter or remain with access public funds included as well as the right to work.

The Home Office this week announced a policy setting out the terms of the 12 month immigration “amnesty” for those who survived the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The short point to this policy is that:

  1. The Home Office is offering a 12 month amnesty;
  2. Survivors will be offering a grant of leave to remain
  3. Survivors will be offered an extension leave to remain of 12 months; and
  4. Crucially survivors will be allowed access to public funds and able to work..

Urgency

There is a need to act urgently. The applications must be made before 31 August 2017.

The good news is that:

  1. There will not be a specific form nn  ;
  2. There is no fee; and
  3. There is no NHS Health Surchage

In addition to this amnesty there has been an undertaking that the HO will not enquire into individuals immigration status.

There is a possibility that the application may cause long term problems for immigration clients, as to settlement and switching into other categories.

It follows that the first port of call must be an immigration lawyer. I would advise making contact with me to arrange an appointment as soon as possible in order to be able to advise you as to whether it is worth applying.

Those who can apply include:

  • Those with no immigration status at all, including illegal entrants, overstayers and failed asylum seekers
  • EEA nationals in the UK who are not exercising treaty rights (a group the UK Government considers unlawfully resident)
  • Those with limited leave due to expire within 12 months
  • Those with a status which is subject to a “no recourse to public funds” condition

There are a number of exclusions, which include:

  1. Asylum seekers; and
  2. Failed asylum seekers.

 

There needs to be a connection with Grenfell Tower is an absolute requirement. The policy says a those who will qualify are those who:

  • Were a resident of Grenfell Tower on the date of the fire, whether or not they were there at the time of the fire. This includes those who were renting unlawfully through an illegal sub-let or informal arrangement; or
  • Were living close to Grenfell Tower and have been significantly affected by the fire because they have been displaced from their place of residence, which was destroyed or made uninhabitable by the fire. We anticipate that those living close to the Grenfell Tower that are significantly affected in this way are those residents living in Grenfell Walk at the date of the fire.

Disadvantages to applying

If you do not have status then this is an excellent offer. Indeed if you are coming up to a milestone, say half life or 20 years or have a child who is approaching 7 or 10 then this is clearly a positive.

Extant leave to remain

If you have leave to remain I would advise seeking legal advice as soon as possible because

  1. You may well wish to have your extant leave varied so as to include a right to work;
  2. You may well want to ask for a right to public funds
  3. accept instead a grant of leave of 12 months with access to public funds and permission to work.

The policy continues as follows:

Individuals with leave on an existing route to settlement under the Immigration Rules should consider the impact of switching to a grant of leave outside the Immigration Rules on the length of time it will take to reach settlement. Individuals cannot hold more than one type of leave to remain.

This is that by availing oneself of the amnesty you will break the period of leave required for settlement as a spouse / 10 years given that the Rules provides that you must have held leave for this period in the relevant category.

However, while the Secretary of State could have avoided this by amending the wording of the policy the Secretary of State has chosen not to do so, thus leaving an individual relying on discretion in order to qualify for leave to remain.

phobia of migrants who switch status. In Home Office World a migrant has to decide what class or category into which he or she fits and then stay there. That said, it would be simple to have stated in the policy that grants of leave under the policy would not prejudice future qualification for settlement, for example on the spouse and partner routes. The Home Office always has a discretion to waive requirements of the Immigration Rules and I think it would be a harsh Judge who refused an application made properly under the Rules who had been a victim of the Grenfell tragedy.

Exclusions

The policy excludes the following:

  • any Foreign National Offender (FNO), i.e. those subject to deportation proceedings or whose continued presence in the UK has been determined by the Home Office to be not conducive to the public good;
  • any person who, if they were to apply for asylum, would fall for exclusion under Article 1F of the Refugee Convention;
  • any person subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures – TPIMs;
  • any person currently subject to a Deportation Order (including those appealing a Deportation Order);
  • any person for whom there are concerns about criminality, character or associations, including extremist behaviour;
  • any person who has failed security checks; and
  • any person who has refused to supply their biometrics.

Challenging a refusal

The policy states that there is no appeal. However in my view this cannot be right. It would be easy to obtain a right of appeal by including in any representations a human rights claim and it would be an extremely harsh Judge that ruled that the policy was not in effect a recognition of an individual’s human rights.

Conclusion

It is rare that the Home Office comes out with a policy that benefits people. The Grenfell Tower tragedy was awful. I saw first hand the suffering and it was deeply and profoundly disturbing. I feel for all those who have suffered directly or indirectly. One simply cannot believe it happens in the UK in 2017. However as a result of a terrible accident lives were lost.

 

There are good reasons to apply for the grant of leave to remain under the policy, however before doing so it would be my firm advice to seek legal advice. A further factor that goes almost without saying is that it will be necessary to show a connection with the Tower.

In conclusion, the offer of a 12 month grant of leave with no conditions will be useful to some, may be actively detrimental to others and will be considered too short term by others. There is also a risk in making an application; proving connection to Grenfell Tower will be very important and failure to do so may lead to prosecution.

Paul Turner is an experienced and highly regarded direct access immigration barrister also licensed to practice litigation and has a team of 4 to help make any problem appear its true size. He is the head of Imperium Chambers, a boutique, possibly the first, set designed to help direct clients who do not want a solicitor and who want direct access with a barrister who was called in 1998 and has been practising immigration since 1999. I am also a member of the excellent set of Tony Metzer QC, Goldsmith Chambers, based in the Temple. He can be contacted on 0207 242 3488.